03/20/2008 12:00AM

Pace may give boost to Junior College


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Junior College could get an ideal pace setup at Oaklawn on Saturday in the $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes, which drew a number of front-runners, including Indian Chant and Mr. Nightlinger. The six-furlong race is the final local stepping-stone to the Grade 3, $150,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap here April 10.

Junior College has shown versatility in his races, winning from both on and off the pace. In the Hot Springs, he could settle in behind several of his four rivals, among them the rail-drawn Lovango. In his last start, Lovango set a quick pace in an optional claimer here Feb. 28 and went on to a 3 3/4-length win to earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

Mr. Nightlinger, meanwhile, wired a field of $50,000 optional claimers at Fair Grounds in his last start Feb. 10, and Indian Chant was second by a neck in his last start, when he was prominent throughout in a $80,000 optional claimer at Oaklawn on Feb. 24. For the effort, Indian Chant earned a Beyer of 100, the same number Junior College earned in his last start, when he rallied for second in the $50,000 King Cotton here Feb. 2. Junior College will break from post 3 in the Hot Springs.

"He's very professional," trainer Tony Reinstedler said of Junior College. "Whatever the race dictates, he can do. He can be on the lead, he can be off the pace.

"A race with quality speed helps him, because he has the ability to stalk and pounce. That's really his best style."

Junior College raced in fifth early in the King Cotton, a race in which he gave winner Semaphore Man eight pounds. Eddie Razo has the mount Saturday, when Junior College will be seeking his third stakes win in his last four starts. He captured the $62,000 Bet on Sunshine at Churchill Downs in November and the $50,000 Holiday Cheer at Turfway Park in December. Junior College, who races for Mjaka Stables, is also appealing for his 3-for-5 record at Oaklawn.

Natural Speed brings one of the best company lines into the Hot Springs. He was third last out to the undefeated Euroears in the $100,000 Colonel Power at Fair Grounds on Feb. 9. Following that race, Euroears won the $200,000 Kenner Breeders' Cup at Fair Grounds with a Beyer of 110. Steve Asmussen trains Natural Speed, who could get a stalking trip under Luis Quinonez.